Elmhurst College Fall 2012
Turkey and Modernity
Turkey has always historically been a region of economic and/or military importance. Whether it was under Roman occupation, or as the independent Ottomans, this region has always been one of vast importance, and this trend has continued into the modern era. Starting with the earliest traces of civilization and extending well beyond the democratic reforms of their beloved commander Ataturk (which literally means father of the Turks), Turkey has always historically fought to keep its global economic status. Many, if not all, of the worlds super powers, past and present, have fought to obtain this region, and it has remained fairly autonomous throughout History. To better understand this region and its progression towards a democratic state, one must first understand the history of this powerful nation. An Abridged History of Turkey
As earlier stated, Turkey has long been a nation of vast regional importance. Among the many earliest inhabitants of this land were: the Hittites, the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans, as well as many others. The Roman Emperor Constantine the Great changed the name of the city of Byzantium (modern day Istanbul) to Constantinople and made it his new Eastern Roman capital. This movement caused a massive social and economic schism, and the great Roman Empire became two separate halves. Constantinople, shortly thereafter, became the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, which officially separated from Roman Catholicism in 1054 C.E. when the Pope and the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated each other (Mango).
According to Carl Findley, a renowned historian of the Middle East, “...the Turks are a Ural-Altaic people who emerged from the plains between the Ural Mountains in Europe and the Altay Mountains in Asia.” Important here is the European cultural roots, which will be of more importance during the 20th century. Findley continues, “the most recent predecessors to the inhabitants of present-day Turkey, known as the Seljuk Turks (Persians) defeated the Byzantines in the battle of Malazgirt, 1071 C.E., and established themselves in Anatolia (a region of modern day turkey)”. (Findley) Evident here is the long held tradition in Turkey of regional conflict. It should also be noted that by the 11th century C.E. nearly every major civilization has had its metaphorical “hand” in this region.
Turkey during the 11th and 12th century C.E. consisted of many highly developed Seljuk Muslim communities, which held their collective capital in central Turkey. The Seljuk dynasty remained in power until the Mongol dynasty, another “Ural-Altaic people”, swept across Asia Minor in the mid 13th century C.E. As the Mongols withdrew from the area, Turkish power revived and was in fact expanded under what would become the Ottoman Turks. It is interesting to note here, the Ottoman Turks at their onset, were a band of frontier warriors whose first chief was Osman I, which is where their name originates (Findley).
During the late 13th century C.E. the Ottomans, headed by their leader Mehmet II, conquered all of modern Turkey and established Constantinople as their capital. They later would conquer Syria, Egypt, and much of the Arab Peninsula. At its peak the Ottoman Empire encompassed an estimated 28 million inhabitants, and controlled the regions of: Asia Minor, much of the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa as far west as modern day Algeria, many islands of the eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Crimea. (Finkel) The Ottoman Turks remained in control of this region until the early 20th century when, as a result of the armistice that ended WWI, the Ottoman Empire was disbanded and its territories split. The roots of Modernization
The process of the progressive modernization of Turkey began with the “Imperial Rescript of 1834”, enacted because of a slew of reformist pressure, which attempted to dilute...